Author Edith Wharton has a phenomenal ability to write about love that is lost and found. A young man by the name of Newland Archer seems to have everything he wants out of life, most notably a beautiful young fiancé named May Welland. Their innocent romance seems unbreakable until the introduction of May's cousin, Ellen Olenska, who is planning on divorcing her husband. As he gets to know her and her more rebellious take on life, Archer finds himself falling in love with her. The nature of their social placements, however, make for a very difficult pursuit of any relationship, and not long after Ellen officially divorces her husband, May and Archer get married rather in a hurry, and it seems that the potential for Archer and Ellen to be together is dashed.
Whereas a man who is overcome with emotion and falls deeply in love with a woman might do everything in his power to see her and be with her, Archer makes some very painful decisions in the later years of his life. At the end of The Age of Innocence, he makes the final decision that effectively brings closure to his relationship with Ellen, and it is one that is as brave as it is heart wrenching.
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I actually chose this version of Age of Innocence to listen to because it was 3 hours shorter than other versions. The reader has a good reading voice and she reads in a way I like; not too dramatic but with some expression. She reads very quickly, which could be an issue if you are driving or otherwise trying to multitask; you will miss a lot. That is what I liked, I was only listening and I didn't want to wait for an actor's over emoting.
What I didn't like was the sense that this was a very poorly produced version; there are an excruciating number of mispronunciations; the reader is British and there are obvious differences in pronunciation between British English and American English, but even given that the reader rushes through words, skipping syllables or misreading the word. She mispronounces even quite well known foreign places; the Tuilleries were twilleria or something like that. These are errors that should be caught by a director or producer and fixed. This kind of shoddy recording work should certainly not be sold at full price.
I have noticed that this production company, A. R. N. Productions, has just put out a number of recordings of classics with very similar style cover art. Just based on the really annoyingly bad production quality of this example, I plan to avoid all of their recorded versions of books.
I know that there are a lot of self-published authors who are putting out audio books with incompetent readers; I have sympathy for their wish to get their books out on audio as inexpensively as possible, although I try very hard to avoid buying books with bad narrators
I have less sympathy for this production company that is putting out fairly attractively packaged new recordings of old classics and doing it badly.
I did listen to 4/5 of this recording before giving up in disgust and finishing up with the David Horovitch recording. He does a very good job, but he does read pretty slowly and with a lot of dramatic pauses, which I don't love either. But he does know the words and it's clear that mistakes have been corrected before the audio book was released.
The Age of Innocence is one of my more favorite of Edith Wharton's books. It gives a wonderfully clear sighted tale of the state of upper class New York City culture in the 1870's, well worth reading.
- Nancy Mitford